Brendan is six years old, and he doesn’t talk. His mother says it’s because of a fire in their apartment last month. Someone was burned. And Brendan was there.
“Hurry,” his mother said. “You don’t want to be late for Vacation Bible School.”
Brendan nodded. But he didn’t smile. How could he smile? He was going to be away from his mother for five whole mornings.
Would anyone make fun of his shaved head? Thankfully other boys were also “buzzed.” Today was hat day. And everyone was dressed up. Adult leaders and volunteers also had to wear something bright and cheerful.
Mom gave her son his favorite baseball cap. She wanted to encourage her son with a huge hug and kiss. But she didn’t want to embarrass him. “Have fun,” mom said.
Brendan’s head sagged as he dragged his feet across the sand at the swings. He pushed his hat deeper into his pocket instead of wearing it. In his head he kept hearing shouts and screams from the fire. Laughter and yelling from children here pounded him like waves from the ocean. If only he could be happy like that. Sad Brendan sat on the ground. He wondered if that was a blue jay watching him from the pine tree.
“Okay, line up!” an adult shouted. Everyone entered a large hallway in the church. Sunday school drawings of animals were pasted on the walls. Colorful balloons, and a fisherman’s net full of stuffed animals seemed to stare from everywhere. The theme for this week was, ‘Noah’s Ark’. “Why do they call it an Ark?” Brendan wondered. It’s supposed to be just a huge boat, with animal faces sticking out of windows.
All six and seven year olds were part of the Monkey group. However, he did not feel like one. They were supposed to jump around pretending to eat bananas. How silly, he thought.
His lips were silent as songs were sung. Cheers went up, after prayers were said. Some children tried to make him smile. Right now, he was only interested in the fan’s “whirring” sound.
Everyone raced off to begin the games. Somehow Brendan followed. He wished he could feel happy like these children. But, all he could do was look at them with sad blue eyes.
Brendan was first one out at dodge ball. He sat down. It was no use. He wanted to go home. Each time someone yelled, he looked around. Was it their warning to run from a fire somewhere? He remembered everyone rushing down stairs to safety. It was scary thinking about all that smoke and flames. Squeezing his eyes tightly until they hurt was one way to shut out the memory.
“Hey there,” another boy said. “Want to be my partner in the two legged race? Please.“
How dare this boy bother Brendan? Didn’t this stranger know his house burned down last week? Besides, he wasn’t feeling so good right now. But, the boy did say, “Please.”
“Do you?” the boy asked again. “My name is Kyle.” And the look he gave was the same one Brendan had when he hoped for a friend. But he didn’t feel so friendly now.
“Find someone else,” Brendan almost shouted. But something told him to watch his tongue. Mom always said, “Eat your words before you say anything mean.” Brendan felt a little punch on his shoulder.
“Come on,” Kyle insisted.
And Brandon, the ‘boy-who-wouldn’t-talk’ followed Kyle, who seemed to walk so slowly. They headed towards a group of children. “We’ll never win,” said Brendan. “I’m like a turtle in a race.” And he was. But it didn’t seem to matter to Kyle. He was having too much fun. His laughter made Brendan smile.
Somehow they still made it to the finish line. For some reason, Brendan had to keep helping Kyle to his feet. And he didn’t understand why children and adults were making such a fuss. “YAYYY Kyle! YAYY Brendan!” everyone was shouting.
Two moms rushed over and gave each boy a great big hug. Brendan was confused. Questions popped into his head as he and Kyle ate their cheese and crackers snack. “It’s because I’m legally blind,” Kyle answered. “And you were the only one who wanted to race with me.”
“Blind?” Brendan asked. The word just popped out of his mouth.
“Yes,” said Kyle. “I can see only a tiny bit. Mom told me to make a new friend. And you’re it.” And Brendan smiled for the first time, since the fire. The rest of the afternoon was the best ever. Kyle was by his side each moment. Together they became the noisiest Monkeys in the group.
Brendan even wore his cap. And his laughter could be heard all over the church playground. It was a special day for everyone, especially the counselors.
Co-authors Richard and Esther Provencher invite you to view their newest novel SOMEONE’S SON written during Richard’s recovery from a stroke, which gob-smacked him in 1999. It is a Young Adult novel dealing with family crisis. http://www.synergebooks.com/ebook_someonesson.html